Shanghai Kiss is overrated
Ken Leung plays a completely Whitewashed Asian-American who drops out of Columbia to pursue acting in LA while having a best friend who is bad with women.
Meanwhile the main character, Liam (played by Leung), is having trouble with his alcoholic father played by James Hong over a car accident that killed his mother.
Liam is later asked by his drunk father to go sell a house he inherited from his grandmother in Shanghai. So off he goes to Shanghai. Once there he meets up with his distant Chinese cousin who gets him a nice hotel and a hooker who Ken thinks is a nice girl.
They then go to sell the house but Ken refuses at the last minute because he was ignorant of the exchange rate. Note that Ken is completely Whitewashed in this flick and knows not one ounce of Chinese.
He then travels around the expat, and tourist districts in Shanghai, most notably Pudong district. At a high end bar he meets Micki (Kelly Hu) after ordering a chocolate martini with just a chocolate bar on a martini. They hit it off.
Oh wait, I forgot to mention the part played by Hayden Panettiere from “Heroes”. Basically Liam meets her character, Adelaide, in a bus after she draws him and they become good friends to the point where Liam gives her rides to School but doesn’t take her crush of him seriously. While Liam was about to have Hot Coffee with Miki, he gets a call from Adelaidewho wrote him a poem. He then recollects himself and does the deed with Micki.
Soon he makes a snap decision to stay in Shanghai and goes back to LA to collect some things. Adelaide is upset by this and Liam winds up hanging out with Miki. He stays there for about 2 months and still does not know a damn word of Mandarin other than how to say umbrella in Chinese when messing with a European tourist.
Ken continues seeing Miki until one day he is dragged into a limo by thugs under orders from Jai Li, played by Byron Mann, who claims to be Micki’s fiance. He threatens Liam and tells him he is just an American because he is Whitewashed and points out that White people stole the Native Americans’ land so he must be different.
After making these threats Jai Li, orders the car to stop in hybrid Cantonese-Mandarin and Liam finds himself trying to walk back to Pudong from the local slums.
He later buys a cellphone from a Chinese elderly woman who keeps telling him he is willing to borrow it after she is done talking in Mandarin, which Liam doesn’t understand. He later has lunch with Micki and learns that Jai Li is the one who helped her and her family get out of poverty. Micki blames Liam for not understanding problems in China when he gets upset over the situation.
Liam is heartbroken and tries to sell the house, then refuses at the last minute. Instead he transfers the deed to Micki and her family and then leaves Shanghai after learning he hasn’t found what he was looking for in China
He returns to LA and tries to find Adelaide, who is still pissed at him. He tells her to go explore the world and see life for what it is. Then he goes to New York to apologise and reconcile with his alcoholic father, who we assume goes sober from the meeting. Liam goes back to LA and is able to nail an audition by showing emotions he developed when he matured in his Shanghai adventure.
A year later, Adelaide is now barely legal and 18, so Ken goes to meet her at the airport when she returns from Paris. He sees her with some guy and he gets upset but he later runs into Hayden who tells him that guy is very gay so true love blossoms.
My take: I also found it weak that Ken just leaves China and leave Kelly Hu for an evil Jai Li, who is implied to be an idiot son of a corrupt Chinese Communist Party boss. At the same time, they only showed the good parts of Shanghai and I was surprised the Chinese government actually allowed them to make this movie.
I still find it sad that Ken could not speak any Chinese after spending 2 months in Shanghai although this was supposed to reflect Liam’s self-hate of his Asian heritage until he matures near the end. Overall, it was a nice movie exploring Asian-American Male alienation in the US and in the native country, but having the main character get with jailbait was too much for me.
Update: it seems there are idiots who have problems reading. This review refers to Ken’s character Liam not Mr. Leung himself. The movie was not as great as it should but it is a start if people read what I said instead of making emotional tirades about “AZN Prydez”. Regardless of how I feel about this flick, buy the DVD so people who make such films will have more money to make better films…